He had a fairly lengthy and successful NHL career and has been in the head office of the Philadelphia Flyers for many years. Yet, Paul Holmgren got his pro hockey start in the North American Hockey League.
Holmgren played just six games for the Johnstown Jets during the 1975-76 NAHL season. He would be known in the NHL as an enforcer but for his short stint in Johnstown, Holmgren was an offensive powerhouse who visited the sin bin relatively seldom. Afterall, the Jets had the ‘Hanson Brothers’ (Dave Hanson, Jeff Carlson and Steve Carlson) of Slapshot fame to do the team’s dirty work.
In his six games in the NAHL, Holmgren scored three goals and assisted on 12 for 15 points while sitting just 12 minutes in the box. The Jets finished first in the West Division and second overall in the NAHL. Johnstown lost in the semi-finals to eventual Lockhart Cup champions, the Philadelphia Firebirds. Also playing an offensive role for the Jets early in his pro hockey career was Bruce Boudreau.
Paul was a third round pick of the Edmonton Oilers at the 1974 WHA Amateur Draft, 38th overall. He was also taken by the Flyers in the sixth round of the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft, 108th overall. In that 1975-76 season, Holmgren also played 51 games in the World Hockey Association with the Minnesota Fighting Saints, six games in the AHL with the Richmond Robins and a single game in the NHL with the Flyers.
Holmgren played 527 regular season games in the National Hockey League between 1976-77 and 1984-85 and accumulated 1,684 penalty minutes. He was second in the NHL to Dave ‘Tiger’ Williams with 306 PIM during the 1980-81 season.
Perhaps, his career year in the NHL came in 1979-80. In 74 regular season games with the Flyers, he scored 30 goals and assisted on 35 for 65 points. Staying in character, Paul also spent 267 minutes in the box. In the playoffs, he scored ten and assisted on ten more for 20 points in 18 games. The Pat Quinn coached Flyers finished first overall in the NHL with 116 points. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, Philadelphia lost just 2 games over the first three series before losing in six games to the New York Islanders in the finals.
Holmgren has been on the Flyers staff since retiring from the game, with exception of a stint as head coach of the Hartford Whalers between 1992-93 and 1995-96. Paul has been General Manager of the Flyers since taking over from Bobby Clarke during the 2006-07 season. For the past two years, Holmgren has been also GM of the Adirondack Phantoms of the American Hockey League.